The halal travel boom: Every third customer is non-Muslim
Not many travel industry experts know this, but nearly a third of all customers using Islam-compliant travel agencies in Germany is non-Muslim. Halal travel is booked mainly by women and families, and business is booming. What’s more, in September this year another exciting destination with glorious expanses of beach opened its doors to international tourism: Saudi-Arabia. The booming halal travel market will be among the main topics explored at HALAL HANNOVER, from 6 to 8 March 2020.17 Dec. 2019
Hannover. The island of Mallorca is Germany's most popular travel destination in Europe, while Thailand is the destination of choice for those looking for something far away and exotic. But what of the country's 100,000 or so non-Muslim travelers who prefer to vacation in peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of big crowds and frenetic nightlife? Munich-based travel agency Suaytour is actively targeting this group. "Enjoy a conservative vacation with your family," its advertising reads.
Suaytour services 3,500 other agencies in six countries and even runs a branch office in Moscow for that country's 18 million Muslims. It generates as much as 40 million euros in sales annually. CEO Feyruz Dursun says he has no problems getting sales, but notes there are too few hotels and flights, and not enough investors. In terms of marketing, he says he relies on word-of-mouth referrals and trade shows.
London-based Internet marketing success story HalalBooking.com is Europe's leading booking platform for halal-friendly travel. Germany is the platform's third-largest market after the UK and France. Marketing specialist Rebecca Widrig, the HalalBooking.com manager in charge of German-speaking Europe, explains: "Non-Muslims also use our platform, mainly because they like the female and family-friendly facilities on offer. Many are looking for vacations in quiet, private settings. Our marketing does not actually target non-Muslims, but we do get bookings from this group because they value the service and support they get from us."
Suaytour is able to provide concrete figures. Some 16 percent of its customers are values-conscious non-Muslims, and a further four percent are friends of German Turks who are keen to try halal hotels in Antalya Province. Recep Aydin of Duisburg-based travel agency KAM 2000 puts the non-Muslim share of his customer base even higher, at 30 percent. They are mostly locals from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
There is also a certain degree of cooperation between agencies and organizations in this sector. For example, KAM 2000 also sells package deals from HalalBooking.com. Similarly, HalalBooking.com itself has a cooperation agreement in place with the German arm of Islam-compliant KT Bank (Frankfurt, Cologne, Berlin, Mannheim) under which holders of credit cards issued by the bank receive discounts of up to 20 percent on accommodations booked via HalalBooking.com. KT Bank also has a cooperation agreement with Turkish Airlines (THY) under which it offers installment payment options for purchasers of airline tickets.
Halal-friendly hotels are not confined to Muslim countries. They are available in non-Muslim-majority destinations as well – even on Mallorca. In terms of currently available options, HalalBooking.com's Rebecca Widrig points to a child-free (14+), women-only hotel on Mallorca that is staffed exclusively by women. There is also a women-only resort listed on the platform. In Finland there is even a private vacation island that is for women, only: Super She Island.
Another important consideration for halal travelers is that hotels and resorts have in place careful controls on the use of smartphones in bathing and other areas where women may be present without head coverings or in bathing costumes. This, ultimately, is to prevent inappropriate photographs and videos of hotel and resort guests from winding up on social media.
Several years ago, HalalBooking.com added a filter function to its website that enables customers to refine their searches by absence of alcohol and availability of women-only pool, beach and wellness facilities, and halal food. The filter allows customers to specify the degree of halal-conformity they require and thus tailor their vacation to their requirements.
The explosion of tourism on the Balearic Islands and in Thailand is one reason why more and more German vacationers are turning away from mainstream tourism. Another reason is curiosity: Germans are nothing if not keen travelers and explorers. Either way, they now have access to a destination which until quite recently had been very difficult to access. In September this year, Saudi Arabia introduced electronic visas for EU citizens. Understandably, Germany has only a few travel agencies with expertise in travel to Saudi Arabia, and historically they have tended to specialize in halal travel and pilgrimages. Balcok Travel Agency, a family-owned firm in Essen, is a case in point.
Balcok, which has a staff of over 10, has been helping pilgrims from Germany travel to the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina for 35 years. The agency gives personalized advice to its travelers and provides them with the services of a dedicated women's representative as well as female childcare support. Now that Saudi Arabia is issuing eVisas, Balcok's expertise can also be made available to non-Muslims. Saudi Arabia has a wealth of beautiful beaches and coastline that have until now been largely out of bounds for swimmers and divers. Balcok Travel Agency will be exhibiting at HALAL HANNOVER.
In what ways are Muslim travelers changing tourism? This question will be high on the agenda at HALAL HANNOVER, including in the show's conference program. Demand for halal travel is growing worldwide, and the tourism industry is increasingly taking notice. Germany is no exception.
HALAL HANNOVER is a new business and knowledge-sharing platform for the halal industry that premiers from 6 to 8 March 2020, focusing on halal-compliant food, beverages, cosmetic products and travel. As well as an exhibition, it will feature an international conference program and a special food-tasting area. Day one of the three-day event is for trade visitors only, while days two and three (Saturday and Sunday) will also be open to consumers.
Interested in information and latest news about the new HALAL Hannover?
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